(BEDFORD) – Since 1983, when President Ronald Reagan first declared the month of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we take time to remember the children we have lost to abuse and neglect and to refocus our collective efforts to protect our most vulnerable, said Lawrence County Prosecutor Sam Arp.
He released the following statement:
As your Prosecutor, this is an issue I see first-hand, and all too often. Studies have shown approximately five children lose their lives to child abuse in the United States every day. Even one child is too many.
Each year in the United States there are more than 2.9 million reports of child abuse or neglect. These are staggering numbers. Child maltreatment can take several forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.
According to the Centers of Disease Control, each type can be defined. This can help the general public be on alert to protect a child who may be at risk or who may have suffered harm. Physical abuse is defined as the intentional use of physical force that can result in harm, including hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or any other forceful act against a child. Sexual abuse involves pressuring or forcing a child to engage in sexual acts.
Emotional abuse is any behavior that harms a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being, including withholding love, threatening, name-calling, shaming, and rejection.
Finally, neglect is the failure to meet a child’s basic physical and emotional needs but should not be confused with a child living in poverty or receiving public assistance.
In 2019, one in seven children in the United States experienced some form of maltreatment. The consequences of child abuse and neglect are long-term and costly. In the U.S. the total lifetime economic burden of child maltreatment was approximately $428 Billion in 2015. These costs are similar to the burden of other public health maladies, such as stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Several risk factors make children more vulnerable to abuse and neglect, including age and childhood disabilities as well as parental stressors. Children under the age of four (4) and children with special needs are more likely to be victims of abuse than other age groups and demographics. Children who live in poverty are also more likely to be at risk. Parental risk factors include a parent’s lack of understanding of the child’s needs or child development, a parental history of child abuse or neglect, substance abuse and/or mental health issues including depression, and non-biological, caregivers in the home, such as a boyfriend or girlfriend of the parent. Other risk factors include family stress, social isolation, separation, divorce, and domestic violence.
All citizens are required to report abuse and neglect if we know it is occurring, but we can do more to prevent child abuse and neglect than simply making a report. We can take action in our community by providing extra support to young families who may not have other family members to help when they are in need. We can connect families to resources and ensure there are ample opportunities to help families alleviate stress. We can work to reduce substance abuse by ensuring there are programs available both inside and outside the criminal justice system. Finally, we can educate parents and caregivers in creating and supporting a nurturing home environment for all children.
All kids need caring adults in their lives and sometimes, for a variety of reasons, this can’t be their parents. When a child has been harmed, the Prosecutor and Child Services step in to help make sure these vulnerable children are protected. We rely on foster parents, relatives, and other caring adults to help provide the nurturing, caring, and supportive environments for child victims and their parents to begin to heal.
If you know or suspect a child may be a victim of abuse or neglect, please contact the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.
For more information about becoming a foster parent of a child in need, visit www.indianafostercare.org.